Bye, bye birdie: Annual bird count tells a story

January 2, 2018

WASHINGTON — Some people bundle up to walk the dog or go for a run in freezing weather.

But across the D.C. region, thousands brave frigid temperatures for a chance to tally all the birds they can find during a 24-hour period. The practice is part of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, a tradition that stretches back to 1901.

Janet Millenson of Potomac, tallied the data taken by the Sugarloaf Mountain count. Her team was out on Sunday, the coldest December day since 1989.

In a feat of understatement, Millenson said the day was “unpleasantly cold” and joked that teams of birdwatchers who spread out over a 15-mile diameter route were still thawing out.

“I actually feel guilty; I feel as the compiler of the data I ought to arrange nice weather,” she said.

The types of birds spotted can indicate what’s going on in the environment due to habitat loss, climate change or even outbreaks of things such as West Nile virus, according to Millenson.

Read more